A banner hanging up at the Korean Buddhism History and Culture Center at Jogye Temple in Seoul’s Jongno District on the afternoon of Sept. 9 said, “The South Korean government should make an official apology, launch an investigation and pay reparations.”
The banner was announcing a memorial service for victims of the Vietnam War that was being held at 3:30 that afternoon.
During the memorial service, which was organized by the social and labor committee of the Jogye Order of Buddhism and a Vietnamese Buddhist temple called Ch?a Vi?n Ng?, a group of over 200 people, including monks from the two countries and Vietnamese workers and exchange students, gathered to honor the spirits of those who died at the hands of South Korean troops.
South Korean troops are estimated to have massacred more than 9,000 unarmed civilians during the Vietnam War. Current South Korean President Moon Jae-in, as well as former presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, have expressed their regrets for these massacres, but there has never been an official apology by the South Korean government.
South Korean monks who attended the memorial service prayed that the Vietnamese victims would have an easy afterlife and called on the South Korean government to conduct a thorough investigation and pay reparations.
“South Korea was the country that fielded the most troops in the Vietnam War after the US. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Hami Village massacre. We would like to apologize and express our contrition to the spirits of those killed during the Vietnam War and to their descendants,” said Ven. Hye Chan, chair of the Jogye Order‘s social and labor committee, during a memorial address. South Korean troops killed 135 civilians at Hami Village.
“The South Korean government needs to provide the families of the victims with a courteous apology and reparations, along with carrying out a thorough investigation into the victims’ deaths,” stressed Ven. Jin Gak, head of the Jogye Order‘s social affairs department.
“I’m told that South Koreans are reflecting upon the mistakes they made and are making a number of efforts to ease the pain of innocent civilians. As disciples of the Buddha, I hope they will work with us to overcome our painful past and build a bright and peaceful future,” said Thích Phước Trí, head of the ritual department for the Vietnamese Buddhist Association.
“This memorial service was organized to convey our contemplation, contrition and hope that the deceased will enter into eternal bliss. Next year, we‘re planning to hold a memorial service for the innocent victims on site in Vietnam,” said an official with the Jogye Order’s social and labor committee.